Fox-56 will likely disappear to most Central Kentucky cable subscribers outside of Lexington on Jan. 1, warns the station's Maryland-based owner.
At issue is a dispute between Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns WDKY and dozens of other stations around the nation, and Time Warner Cable Inc. about programming fees. The two sides appear to agree on little, including which side pulled the plug on a possible arbitration.
"We are always willing to negotiate, but we have been, for some time, extremely pessimistic about the possibility of getting a deal done with Time Warner," said Sinclair spokesman Barry Faber, who added that it is "extremely unlikely that a deal will be reached" because the two sides are so far apart.
However, if a deal is reached, "we didn't mean to alarm anybody about this," he said.
A spokesman for Time Warner said Tuesday that the two companies will continue to negotiate until the last possible moment.
"We are still negotiating, and are actively negotiating with Sinclair, and hope to go on ... but we need a deal that is in the best interest of our customers," said Michael Pedelty, Time Warner spokesman for Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio. "... We feel it's our responsibility to negotiate on behalf of customers and not just accept what's put on the table."
Both companies are asking viewers to put pressure on the other side.
An on-screen crawl warns Fox-56 viewers that they might not receive the Fox-56 News and locally syndicated programs such as Judge Judy come Jan. 1 and asks them to contact Time Warner.
Time Warner counters by offering an offshoot Web site, Rolloverorgettough.com, where it directs customers to contact local TV stations.
Pedelty said Time Warner is trying to educate customers about the components of their cost of service, which includes agreements with providers such as Sinclair.
Pedelty also said Time Warner has a clause in its programming deal that would provide subscribers with continued access to Fox broadcast network programming, including shows such as Glee, House, and weekend football.
Sinclair owns 58 stations in 35 markets, which reach 22 percent of U.S. TV households.
Time Warner provides cable service for about 70,000 households across the state, primarily in Central and Eastern Kentucky, Pedelty said. Cities served by Time Warner include Berea, Danville, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon, London, Mount Sterling, Nicholasville, Paris, Versailles, Richmond and Winchester.